Cults
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11 Harrowing Stories Of People Who Escaped Scientology

Updated October 10, 2019 3.2m views11 items

Leaving Scientology is apparently no easy task. Some people who left Scientology claim they underwent months of interrogation while being locked up and had to sign gag orders. Others say they performed a great Scientology escape - whether it be slipping out the front gate, evading security guards, or even taking a legal sneak attack approach. The church has allegedly harassed former members by planting spies in their neighborhoods, launching smear campaigns against them, and intimidating them.

Escaping Scientology doesn't just mean getting out of a compound. Former members claim it means being disconnected from family, overcoming slander and harassment from church officials, and starting a new life with no real foundation. It's a harrowing journey many of us will never understand.

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  • Ron Miscavige Says He Sped Away After Tricking Security Guards

    Ron Miscavige, David Miscavige's father, says he and his wife lived at a high-security Scientology base that offered almost no internet access.

    According to Ron, David gifted his father a Kindle, not realizing the popular e-reader offered unfiltered internet access, and one Google search was all it took to reveal that much of the outside world considered Scientology to be a cult, rife with allegations of physical abuse, sexual assault, and continued harassment of former members. 

    He showed his wife Becky and they spent six months planning their escape.

    Ron and Becky established a routine, conditioning the guards to let them out to visit a music studio across the street every Sunday. 

    "I drove out slowly so it wouldn’t arouse suspicion,” Miscavige told "20/20." "When I turned left, I put my foot right to the floorboard... I knew we were free. I knew they couldn’t catch us."

    He added: “It was an escape. You can’t leave. You think you can just walk out? No. You will be stopped. I escaped.”

  • Jenna Miscavige Hill Says She Discovered The Truth About Scientology And Bailed

    Jenna Miscavige Hill, author of Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape, is the niece of Scientology leader David Miscavige. Hill was raised in the church's most devout religious order, the Sea Org, which according to Hill is a child labor camp. She claims children were sent to "the Ranch," where they were forced to do physical labor 14 hours a day, seven days a week. 

    During a 2004 church mission to Australia, she says she and her husband Dallas learned the extent of the Church of Scientology’s deceit, as the trip exposed them to unfiltered internet access.

    They decided to leave, but the organization threatened Dallas with disconnection from his family, according to Hill. She claims the church pressured them to sign contracts entitling the church to $10,000 for every public criticism they might make about the church. She refused.

    None of this stopped Jenna from leaving in 2005, or from speaking out against the church. 

  • Marc Headley Says Scientologists Pursued Him As He Fled On A Motorcycle

    Photo: Marc Headley / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

    Marc Headley says he coordinated Scientology events that embellished the positive aspects of the church with slanted statistics. “He was intimately involved and oversaw all aspects of Scientology’s propaganda machine,” Mike Rinder said.

    Headley says that a discussion about Scientology on radio show The John and Ken Show contributed to his doubts about the church.

    He wrote in his book Blown for Good: Behind the Iron Curtain of Scientology that in January 2005 he left the church's Gold Base in Riverside, California, on a motorcycle, but security guards pursued him and he crashed. Riverside County police then arrived, and helped him get farther from the church, according to Headley.

  • Claire Headley Says She Snuck Away During A Trip To Walmart

    Claire Headley says she was born into Scientology, and that at the age of 7 she signed a contract to be with the church for a billion years. Headley says she was faced with the threat of a “freeloader’s debt,” which Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath described as a "retroactive billing for all Scientology auditing and training received while in the Sea Org"; the debt "can run into tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars.” She claims to have been coerced into terminating two pregnancies during her time with the Sea Org.

    After Claire’s husband Marc Headley successfully left the church, he managed to get a cell phone to her to help coordinate her departure. According to Claire, during a trip to Walmart - she had to get approval to purchase contact lenses - she slipped away from Scientologists and boarded a bus. When she arrived in Las Vegas, she was met by more Scientologists, but she threatened to make a scene if they physically tried to take her back to California.

    The Headleys then reunited. They have three children, and continue to be outspoken critics of the church.